Wednesday, June 19, 2013

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH • [insert name here] Theatre Company

A musical about a transgender singer from East Berlin?  You bet!  Hedwig became an off-Broadway hit in 1998 after gathering a cult following and ran for two years, inspiring a film released in 2001.  Now Hedwig Schmidt (a magnetic Paul Cereghino), and his band, The Angry Inch, are playing one of their tour stops, which happens to be The Focal Point on Sutton Avenue.

They're playing where they can, following Hedwig's former lover, rock-star Tommy Gnosis around the country, who is on his much more successful tour.  He broke Hedwig's heart and pilfered her music, and she tells us about him and other stories from her life during the set, starting with her days in Berlin as a "slip of a girly boy", then called Hansel.  Her quest to find her soulmate seemed promising after finding love with an American named Luther.  She agrees to marry him and move to Germany, so her mother gives her a passport, her name, and Hedwig gets gender reassignment surgery in order to legally get married.  The operation however, is completely screwed up, and Hedwig is left with an "angry inch".  After facing an uphill battle, struggling to fashion a new sense of self and sexual identity, Luther leaves Hedwig after they'd immigrated to a trailer park in Junction City, Kansas.  Hedwig voices her painful past through humorous self deprecation and one-liners, but also with Stephen Trask's heartfelt, tuneful songs like "Wig in a Box" and "Wicked Little Town".  She's backed up vocally by her current husband, drag-king, Yitzhak (Connie Reinhardt).

Hedwig and The Angry Inch.
The intimate space at The Focal Point does add to the construct of the show, but the stage is almost too small.  Cereghino, while very energetic in the role, seemed inhibited only by the area he had to work with.  Under Tim Clark's musical direction, the band sounded pretty good, but were loud.  Like, way loud.  These two things hampered the show a bit, but the snappy pacing that keeps you involved in Hedwig's story, her love/hate relationship with Yitzhak, and the eventual steps she takes toward making herself whole all came together to mitigate a great deal.  While Cereghino gives us a full range, always reveling in the glory of the role, Reinhardt powerfully contributes to the duets with a great set of pipes.  Brittanie Boado's scenic, lighting and sound design worked nicely, particularly the occasional bursts of the Tommy Gnosis concert.  Hedwig looks fabulous in Wes Rankin's costume and make-up design, and under Chris Owens's direction, this rock show makes for a fun night out.  Only a few more performances left!

Paul Cereghino (Hedwig).

Music/lyrics by Stephen Trask 
Book by John Cameron Mitchell 
Directed by Chris Owens
The Focal Point, 2720 Sutton Ave.
through June 22 | tickets: $18 - $20
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm

Paul Cereghino (Hewig) and Connie Reinhardt (Yitzhak).

Sound and lighting design by Brittanie Boado; scenic design by Brittanie Boado; makeup and costume design by Wes Rankin; stage manager, Liz Schuster.

The Angry Inch:
Musical direction by Tim Clark; guitar, Marshall Leek; bass, Jacob Mreen; drums, Tyler Jensen.

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